Implementing IoT securely in your company – Part 1

January 6, 2017

The last articles in this blog about IoT (often called Internet of Targets 😉 ) where about a specific cam or about IoT at home. This article series will be different, it will focus on the IoT in companies. Part one will talk about what you need to in order to prepare your network for IoT.

Prepare your network for IoT

There are 2 kinds of IoT devices/setups:

  • ones that are directly connected to your network (e.g. house automation, access systems, …)
  • ones that are connected via a mobile operator via GPRS, LTE, …. (e.g. car traffic counter, weather stations, webcam at remote places, …)

For the first ones it is a good idea to implement a separate virtual network, which means the traffic from and to the IoT devices always goes over a firewall before going to your servers or PCs. A normal company network should have following separate virtual networks outside the data centers.

  • PC
  • VoIP
  • printer/scanner/MFD
  • external Clients / visitors
  • services = IoT

All those networks are connected to each other via a firewall and only required ports are opened. This separation is not arbitrary as it runs along some important differentiating factors:

  • You’re PCs are normally centrally managed (monthly software updates, no administrator privileges for the users, …) and are allowed to access many and critical servers and services.  Also there is normally no communication needed between 2 PCs, so you can block that to make an attacker the lateral movement harder/impossible.
  • The VoIP phones need QoS and talk directly which each other, as only SIP runs to the server, the (S)RTP media streams run between the phones – peer to peer.
  • Let’s face it, nobody installs software updates on their printers, but they are full computers often with Windows CE or Linux. So like IoT devices we need to contain them. Also one printer does not need to talk to an other printer – block printer to printer traffic.

So lets talk about the IoT network:

  • Put the servers of IoT devices (if they are not fully cloud based) into you’re data centers in the proper DMZ.
  • IoT normally don’t talk directly which each other as the don’t require that the different devices are in the same network at all. So I highly recommend to block client 2 client traffic also in the IoT network. This blocking is important as if an attacker got his hand on one device, he cannot exploit wholes in other IoT devices by simply leap frogging from the first.

After you got your internal IoT network set up we take a look at the devices you need to connect via a mobile operator. First it is never a good idea to put IoT devices directly onto the Internet. Sure you can can use a VPN router for each IoT device to connect back to your data centers, but there is an easier way if you’ve more than a few devices. Most mobile operators provide a service that contains following:

  • separate APN (access point name in GSM/UMTS/LTE speech) which allows authorized SIM cards to connect to a private non Internet network
  • you can choose the IP range of this special mad-for-you network
  • Each SIM card gets assigned a fixed IP address in this network
  • IPsec tunnel which connects the private network to you data center(s)

Here in Austria you pay a setup fee and monthly for the private network but the SIM cards and the cost for bandwidth are basically the same as for normal SIM cards which connect to the Internet.  I recommend to choose 2 providers for this kind of setup as it will happen that one as a bad coverage at a given spot.  With this network and the fixed IP addresses it is quite easy to configure the firewall securely.

The next part will take a look at the policy for implementing new IoT devices, on making sure that the devices are the right ones and that they work in your network.

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  1. […] Part 1 which focused on setting up your network for IoT this post focus on making sure that the devices […]

    Pingback by Implementing IoT securely in your company – Part 2 | Robert Penz Blog — January 12, 2017 #

  2. […] is Part 3 of the series implementing IoT securely in your company, click here for part 1 and here for part 2. As it is quite common that new IoT devices are ordered and also maintained by […]

    Pingback by Implementing IoT securely in your company – Part 3 | Robert Penz Blog — February 2, 2017 #

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